Bio

Mike Tooby
is an independent curator and researcher based in Cardiff, Wales.

Professor of Art and Design at Bath School of Art and Design, Bath Spa University, and acting Dean of the School of Art and Design for academic year 2012-13

His particular interests lie in integrating the practices which are often separated in the arts and heritage settings, particularly: display, promotion and learning. He has been actively involved in developing lifelong learning as a concept and practice since the 1980s. His own practice centres on curating, particularly in collaborative or site-specific contexts, where negotiating and celebrating relationships with audiences are at the core of projects. His work explores the shifting labels of curator artist maker and interpreter.

He was Director, National Museum and Gallery, (2000 2003) and, Director of Learning, Programmes and Development (2003-11), for Amgueddfa Cymru. National Museum Wales.

His projects there included: a 6.5m refurbishment and redisplay of the art galleries and archaeology collections; a complete refurbishment of learning spaces at the National Museum Cardiff; and the Oriel Un gallery project at St Fagans National History Museum. All these projects embedded facilities for learners within them for the first time. He also oversaw the development of programmes for young people and older people in contexts outside the museum, working collaboratively with community and national organisations.

Between 2002 and 2011 he developed an extensive programme of collaborative projects in galleries, museums and community projects and settings in Wales. He also led the creation and co-management of the touring exhibition Turner to Czanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection. This was shown at five venues in the USA in 2010 and 2011; the tour saw three of the venues recorded their highest-ever attendance for an exhibition. He has recently published an account of one learning dimension of these projects in the Engage journal.

He chaired the steering group for the first Wales Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2003, and was on the steering group for the 2005 Biennale. In 2006 he was a selector for the Arddangosfa Celf a Crefft, Eisteddfod Genedlaethol (National Eisteddfod Art and Craft Pavillion).

In his early career Mike worked as a curator in Cambridge, Glasgow and Sheffield, and before joining Amgueddfa Cymru. From 1992 to 2000 he was founding curator of Tate St Ives.

At tate St Ives he was responsible for commissioning the new building, establishing the local staff, programme and audience initiatives and outreach. He was series editor of the St Ives series for Tate Publishing, as well as a variety of other publications. He took part in a variety of collaborative projects, including co-curating the 1997 project A Quality of Light, and being in the steering group for the 1999 follow-up As Dark As Light.

He was chair of engage from 1999 to 2004. He has been a board member of South West Arts; an advisor to Arts Council England; and has taught at art colleges and universities throughout the world. He is active in professional mentoring and is frequently called upon to facilitate a range of development and learning initiatives. He is currently a national advisor to Arts Council Wales. He was a member of AHRCs Museums and Galleries Committee, and has served on a number of AHRC award panels

Throughout his career Mike has been involved in commissioning new work in dance and music as part of a inter-disciplinary approach. In Sheffield he worked on a number of projects involving dance and music commissions, developing this work at Tate St Ives. He re-introduced music programmes to the National Museum in 2001. These embraced chamber music, rock and pop and new music, and were closely linked to initiatives for adult and younger learners.

He spent two decades working on early Canadian modernist painting, and has lectured, published and guest curated exhibitions in the UK and Canada on this subject. He has also brought to the UK projects and exhibitions from Ireland, the United States, France, Portugal, the Republic of Georgia, and Flanders Belgium.

Since leaving Amgueddfa Cymru in 2011 he has developed a diverse portfolio of projects. He is mentor to a director/project leader in a museum refurbishment project in Ditchling, Sussex, and to learning curator in the extend programme. He was vice chair of Hineni, a HLF funded community history project involving the Reform Judaism synagogue in in Cardiff. He advised the EU Interreg programme network called toolquiz on a transfer report on Norwegian models for participation in the arts by young people in and outside schools.

He collaborated with artist Lois Williams in curating Arcady within the artist-led initiative goat major projects in Cardiff, and following the presentation in the community festival in Cardiff Made in Roath of his work Kelvin Road Mantelpiece in 2011 and was invited to return to make a new work to be called The Museum of Amazing Coincidences for 2012. His collaborative performance work At the Mad Shepherdess will be presented in the Bar at Chapter Cardiff as part of the Diffusion international festival of lens based media.
He is one of the curatorial team for Clom Cilles Spiral, a project for Derry / Londonderry Capital of Culture 2013.

Mike has a long standing interest in the curating of ceramics. His most recent publications on this subject are in two academic online sites : an essay on Simon Fujiwara, When forms become attitude : A consideration of the adoption by an artist of ceramic display as narrative device and symbolic landscape for the AHRC funded project Behind the Scenes at the Museum : Ceramics in the Expanded Field; and Order and disorder : Some relationships between ceramics, sculpture and museum taxonomies in the online journal Interpreting Ceramics, Issue 14, 2012.

Mike is a national advisor to Arts Council Wales, and has chaired panels and has acted as a peer reviewer and committee member in a variety of capacities for the Arts and Humanities Research Council. He is on the advisory group for the Engage journal. He is visiting Professor in Contemporary Curatorial Practice at University of Glamorgan.